Following the news of the U.S. opening to international travelers on November 8, the TSA is now in the spotlight to complete its vaccination mandate ahead of the busy holiday season.
If the TSA does not meet its vaccination requirements by the November 22 deadline, it could lead to TSA staffing shortages which would likely result in longer lines at checkpoints for travelers or other backups at the airport.
All TSA Employees Must Be Vaccinated By November 22
The deadline for Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) employees to be fully vaccinated is November 22 — the Monday before Thanksgiving.
However, as of last week, 40% of the workforce still hasn’t been vaccinated.
“We have about 60% of our workforce has been vaccinated, that that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN.
While the November 22 deadline is still five weeks away, it doesn’t leave much time if you consider the timeframe of the vaccine schedules.
An individual has to receive the full schedule of doses and wait two weeks before being considered fully vaccinated.
The last possible date for receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine is October 18, while the latest possible date for the first dose of Moderna was October 11, as individuals must wait four weeks between shots.
The last possible date to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is November 8, two weeks before the November 22 deadline.
What Happens if TSA Employees Don’t Get Vaccinated?
a TSA spokesperson told The Points Guy in an email that employees who don’t get vaccinated without necessary exemptions could be removed from federal service.
“Employees who choose to remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 and have not received or have a pending request for a legally required exemption will be subject to discipline, up to and including removal from federal service.”
The spokesperson did not elaborate on any other types of “discipline” employees could be subject to.
“We continue to urge employees in regularly scheduled town hall meetings, shift briefs, and broadcast messages to the workforce to obtain their vaccination.”
TSA Staff Shortages Could Lead to Longer Wait Times For Travelers
With the combination of more international travelers entering the U.S., the upcoming holiday seasons, and potential TSA staff shortages, it could be the perfect storm for long checkpoint lines and wait times at airports across the U.S.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the TSA to develop a contingency plan and increase its vaccination rate before the November 22 deadline.
“Late last week the TSA hinted at a potential real travel mess as Thanksgiving approaches. And that’s because they reported that 40% of their workforce remain unvaccinated from Covid-19,” Sen. Schumer said.
“We can’t have people worried about the holiday season travel. We have to assure them that it’s going to be smooth,” he added.
Still, the TSA remains confident that they will be able to meet the deadline.
During the interview with CNN, Pekoske said he is “very hopeful” that the agency’s employees can meet the deadline and that there will not be worker shortages.
“We are building contingency plans, for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this, but I hope to avoid that,” he said.
A regional spokesperson for the agency also said that 40% figure includes employees who have not reported any vaccine data, which means the number of inoculated workers could be higher than the 60% reported so far.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com